To combine Peter Suber’s post with George Monbiot‘s: The only true cost (and service) provided by peer-reviewed research journal publishers is the management and umpiring of peer review, and this costs an order of magnitude less that the publishers extortionate fees and profits today.
The researchers and peer-reviewers conduct and report the research as well as the peer reviewing for free (or rather, funded by their institutions and research grants, which are, in turn, funded mostly by tax-payers).
Peer-reviewed research journal publishers are making among the biggest profit margins on the planet through almost 100% pure parasitism.
Alexandra Elbakyan’s Sci-Hub is one woman’s noble attempt to fix this.
But the culprits for the prohibitive pay-walling are not just the publishers: They are also the researchers, their institutions and their research grant funders — for not requiring all peer-reviewed research to be made Open Access (OA) immediately upon acceptance for publication through researcher self-archiving intheir own institutional open access repositories.
Instead the OA policy of the EC (“Plan S“) and other institutional and funder OA policies worldwide are allowing publishers to continue their parasitism by offering researcher’ the choice between Option A (self-archiving their published research) or Option B (paying to publish it in an OA journal where publishers simply name their price and the parasitism continues in another key).
Unlike Alexandra Elbakyan, researchers are freeing their very own research OA when they deposit it in their institutional OA repository.
Publishers try to stop them by demanding copyright, imposing OA embargoes, and threating individual researchers and their institutions with Alexandra-Elbakyan-style lawsuits.
Such lawsuits against researchers or their institutions would obviously cause huge public outrage globally — an even better protection than hiding in Kazakhstan.
And many researchers are ignoring the embargoes and spontaneously self-archiving their published papers — and have been doing it, inclreasingly for almost 30 years now (without a single lawsuit).
But spontaneous self-archiving is growing far too slowly: it requires systematic mandates from institutions and funders in order to break out of the paywalls.
The only thing that is and has been sustaining the paywalls on research has been publishers’ lobbying of governments on funder OA policy and their manipulation of institutional OA policy with “Big Deals” on extortionate library licensing fees to ensure that OA policies always include Option B.
The solution is ever so simple: OA policies must drop Option B.